Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for six games Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy following accusations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women in Texas, two people familiar with the decision said.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been publicly released. Watson, who played for four seasons with Houston before being traded to Cleveland in March, recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed by massage therapists alleging sexual harassment and assault during appointments in 2020 and 2021.
After learning the ruling was imminent, the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement with Watson on Sunday night, saying they will not appeal disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s ruling and urged the league to follow suit.
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office” the union said in a statement.
If either side appealed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates will make the decision, per terms of the collective bargaining agreement. The union then could try to challenge that ruling in federal court.
As he awaited the ruling, Watson has been in training camp with the Browns. He has continued to take most of the reps with the first-team offense, which will be turned over to backup Jacoby Brissett while he’s sidelined.
The league had pushed for an indefinite suspension of at least one year and a $5 million fine for the 26-year-old Watson during a three-day hearing before Robinson in June. The NFL Players’ Association argued Watson shouldn’t be punished at all because he was not convicted of any crime.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints brought by 10 of the women.
This was the first case for Robinson, a former U.S. district judge who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the union to handle player misconduct — a role previously held by Goodell.
A three-time Pro Bowl pick with the Texans, Watson has seen his playing career stalled by the allegations that he acted inappropriately with the women during massage therapy sessions he scheduled via social media. He sat out the 2021 season.
In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
Watson has denied all wrongdoing, insisting any sexual activity with three of the women was consensual. He publicly insisted his goal was to clear his name before agreeing to confidential financial settlements with 20 of the women on June 21.
Watson’s high-profile case has renewed scrutiny of the league’s handling of player misbehavior, along with its support for women, and left the Browns wondering if they’ll ever find a franchise quarterback.
Since the trade, Watson has been on public display, with fans questioning whether the league had the authority to ban him from playing despite no criminal charges.
The league has been sensitive about its image and handing out the appropriate discipline for Watson after being criticized for its handling of previous sexual misconduct cases involving Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt among others.
For their part, the Browns were widely condemned for signing Watson. The team has been desperate to find a long-term answer at quarterback — they’ve had a league-high 32 starters since 1999 — and many questioned why the team would take on a player with so much baggage.
During his introductory news conference after he was traded to Cleveland, Watson was adamant about his innocence.
“I have never assaulted, disrespected or harassed any woman in my life,” he said at the dais, where he was joined by Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski. “I was raised differently. That is not my DNA. That is not my culture. That is not me as a person.”
He repeated those comments three months later during the Browns’ minicamp, insisting his only goal was to clear his name. However, a week later he settled 20 of the civil lawsuits. Any remaining lawsuits could still go to trial, but not until 2023 after both sides agreed to wait until after the upcoming season.
On July 15, 30 women settled lawsuits against the Texans after claiming the team ignored and enabled Watson as he harassed and assaulted them during the therapy sessions. Terms of the settlements were kept confidential.
Despite Watson’s legal entanglement, the Browns — along with several other teams — pursued Watson after the first grand jury declined to indict him.
Initially, Watson turned down the Browns. But Cleveland owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam enticed him with a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.
Watson had other offers but chose the Browns and waived his no-trade clause to join a team coming off a disappointing 8-9 season. Cleveland completed the deal on March 18 by agreeing to send Houston three first-round draft picks and six selections overall for Watson.
The Haslams said any concerns they had about his character or behavior were alleviated when they flew to Houston along with Berry and Stefanski and spent time talking to Watson.
An All-American at Clemson, Watson was drafted by the Texans with the No. 12 pick in 2017. He started six games as a rookie before passing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns in his second year.
Watson has developed into one of the league’s elite QBs, throwing for 4,823 yards and 33 TDs in 2020 despite playing on a Texans team that went just 4-12.
Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed
A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.
Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.
Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”
“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.
The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.
Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.
“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.
The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.
And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.
Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.
“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.
Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.
Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”
Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.
Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.
But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.
Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.
Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.
“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.
Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s
How the U.S. became a global corn superpower
The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.
In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.
According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.
“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”
It’s not just what we eat.
“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.
Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.
The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too.
At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.
“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”
The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.
“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.
Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.
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